Situated 9 miles (14.4 km) east of Glasgow, 3 miles (5 km) west of Airdrie in the parish of Old Monkland and within North Lanarkshire, the former industrial town of Coatbridge once boasted 'more blast furnaces than any other town in Scotland.' Its other industries have included brick, fire-brick, coal, steel and engineering. Developing from a bridge on the Colts estate into Scotland's ninth largest town, Coatbridge grew with the construction of the Monkland Canal (finished in 1791), the discovery of ironstone by David Mushet (1801), and the invention of the hot blast furnace by James Beaumont Neilson (1828), leading to 60 furnaces by mid-century. Firms associated with the town include the Scottish Iron and Steel Company, Stewarts and Lloyds, the Scottish Tube Company, R.B. Tennent, William Bain and Co., and the Coatbridge Engineering Company. Its reputation for excessive pollution and the fiery spectacle of the furnaces led one observer to claim 'There is no worse place out of Hell than that neighbourhood.'
From 1826, Coatbridge was linked to towns and canals through railways which carried passengers and freight, and which culminated in a total of 10 passenger stations in the town at one time earning it the title of 'the Charing Cross of Scotland'.
A notable attraction for Coatbridge, and one of the most unique in Scotland, is the large museum complex of the Summerlee Heritage Trust which includes working machinery, trams and ironworks, a section of canal, and a large Machine Exhibition Hall.
Notable buildings in Coatbridge include Gartsherrie Church (1839), Gartsherrie Academy (1845), Carnegie Library (1905), St Patrick's Church (1896), the remains of the Municipal Buildings (1894, damaged by fire in 1967) and Coats Parish Church (1874, with its tall clock tower).
The poet Janet Hamilton lived nearby.